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There are beautiful restaurants, and then there are places like Mott 32 that redefine the notion of transporting diners to another world. The entrance to this basement Chinese restaurant is a narrative in itself, requiring diners to descend slowly into its belly via a lengthy escalator and then a spiralling staircase dramatized by mirrors and hanging lights. Designed by Joyce Wang, this stylish, urbanised space combines industrial glamour with contemporary Chinoiserie in a way that is tasteful, rather than tasteless. The noise level can climb during busy services, and so we always ask for the more intimate semi-private room lined with beautiful calligraphy brushes. The soundtrack is eclectic and unexpected, with everything from a jazz version of Gangsta’s Paradise to a rockabilly remix of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On likely to be on the rotating soundtrack.
The menu at Mott 32 requires some careful navigating and advice from your server, as dishes are split according to ingredients and portion sizes can vary. There is joy in being able to order dim sum in the evening here, and morsels such as quails’ egg siu mai are recommended for their execution as much as their rare factor. However, we found that the crab, caviar and Iberico pork xiao long bao was light on the umami factor and that the topknot of the dumpling was undercooked; we may opt for the hot and sour version next time for a bigger flavour punch. We always call ahead for the barbecue Iberico pluma pork with yellow mountain honey, which has good flavour but on this occasion could have done with more char around the edges. Newer dishes such as smoked black cod (served under a bell jar filled with smoke) were on point: the flaky, tender fish is still moist within, and the exterior is crisp and laminated with a layer of sweetness. Wok-fried kale came sizzling in a claypot with dried shrimp, minced pork and shrimp paste—a dish that bellows with big, savoury flavours—and we rate the same of the king prawns with fresh black peppercorns, garlic and soy sauce. Dessertwise, Mott 32 doesn’t slow down, with a creative set of sweets from east, west, and somewhere in between. Soy sauce ice cream with fresh strawberries and small white chocolate cream discs was a thoughtful play on the sweet-salty diptych, whereas the lesser-seen water chestnut roll with dessicated coconut, pistachios and coconut sauce was a very clean dessert with a pleasant, refreshing crunch.
The drinks selection here, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, is worthy of note. For tea connoisseurs, the Supreme Tie Guan Yin (brewed in a traditional lidded cup) is incredibly fragrant; even the basic dragon ball jasmine priced at a paltry HK$25 per person is miles better than your standard Chinese restaurant brew. Wine-wise, we rate the breadth of the menu that attempts to service fans of both new and old world with quality labels across the board. The only let down is the lack of wine service, as we were given generic recommendations (“most people like X, Y or Z”) and were not offered a taste of our selections.
Service, on the whole, is commendable as we found our servers friendly and accommodating and rather spot on with their food recommendations. As mentioned, however, wine service could do with some improvements.
A meal for two with wine and service will come to around HK$1,600 which is money well spent in a Central location with solid food and wine offerings.